Meatless Monday – The Bank of Tofu

‘Twas the season of gluttony
where sugary treats were found,
excess salt, fats and alcohol
also abound.

In comes the New Year and people repent their over indulgences while others have been barely able to afford a decent and nutritious meal. This Meatless Monday post is an editorial on one aspect of that buzz word du jour food insecurity.

Food banks are in use year round and tend to be busy during the holidays. They are meant as a temporary solution for those in need. However, in an economy with rising costs, stagnant incomes and an unstable job market, food security is becoming more difficult to attain. In a country seemingly as ‘wealthy’ as Canada, one would think there isn’t a need for food banks. But there is and for those of all various dietary persuasions.

January 31st 2015 is the scheduled opening date for Toronto’s first vegetarian food bank. It is preceded by the Ontario Vegetarian Food Bank.

Toronto Vegetarian Food Bank
Ontario Vegetarian Food Bank

Upon this news going to press, some online commentary suggested that “beggars can’t be choosers” and those who use food banks should eat what is given to them, even if they are vegetarian/vegan and the offerings are animal products. Does one relinquish dietary choices for destitution? People choose a meat-free diet for religious, health and economic reasons amongst others. Regardless of means, one would still like access to an sufficient supply of affordable and nutritious food.

Over 800,000 Canadians are reported to use food banks every month with a third of that number being children.

Hunger Count 2014 from Food Banks Canada

Some of these people are employed or have recently lost their employment due to illness, economic downsizing etc. There are other ways to help ensure a healthy meal is had by all: soup kitchens, shelters, school breakfast/lunch programs; community kitchens.

One can make vegetarian-friendly donations to all food banks. Vegetarian staples such as rice and legumes are economical to purchase in bulk and can be stored for long periods of time. They also make the foundation for hearty and nutritious meals. Though canned and packaged foods are popular donations, fresh produce is more challenging to stock at a food bank. Here are some tips for getting cheaper produce:

  • Grocery stores probably have a lot of waste you don’t see. Shop just before closing, look for the bruised and battered section for reduced prices on produce and bargain with the store manager should you find less than desirable food at regular price. (Tip: Check the expiry date on bagged greens/salad kits. These items are sure to be marked down within a day of listed expiry and will still be edible up to a few days after.)
  • Buy seasonal or local produce when the price is right. Eat some fresh then freeze the rest for use at a later time.
  • Check out Farmers’ Markets and Coops for what they have to offer. It is usually better quality and cheaper than grocery stores.

Vegetarians/vegans may be pleased that vegetarian food banks do exist. A plant-based diet, though, lends itself naturally to a budget-friendly approach to eating whether you chose to eat meat or not.




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